Athlete endorsed junk foods cause obesity, report finds

Oct 7, 2013 | News

LeBron James, Miami Heat player appears in an advertisement for McDonald's.

LeBron James, Miami Heat player appears in an advertisement for McDonald’s.

By Sarah Rea and Jessica Paiva

Some forms of obesity could be linked to professional athlete product endorsements, according to a study released Monday by The American Academy of Paediatrics.

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, a non-profit research and public policy organization based in Yale, Conn., found that a majority of the products endorsed by athletes are poor in nutritional value.

The Rudd Center found 79 per cent of the 62 food products in advertisements endorsed by athletes were high in calories and lacked nutrients.

Meg Orciari, a spokesperson at The Rudd Center told Humber News, this type of advertising affects consumers in a negative way, especially children.

“Research shows that marketing exploits children’s developmental vulnerabilities. Until the age of about eight children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent,” she said.

“Unhealthy foods and beverages are heavily marketed to children, and research shows that exposure to food marketing messages increases children’s obesity risk,” Orciari said Monday.


The number of countries struggling with obesity has risen as those athletes perceived as “positive role models” have convinced parents and children that athlete endorsed brands are healthier, the study found.

Anthony Santapaga, a Humber College advertising student told Humber News, he believes many consumers are falsely informed because athletes and celebrities play a strong role in persuading consumers to buy unhealthy treats.

“When someone is viewing these advertisements and seeing these iconic figures of strength, and for the most part good health, indulging in unhealthy choices they think, ‘Well if it’s good enough for them to eat then that must mean it’s good enough for me to eat as well,’” he said.

“This plays a largely negative role on consumers because it is giving them a false sense of reality that it is, indeed, okay for them to be eating these things just because someone of higher social standing is.”

“Most of the athletes who endorsed food and beverages were from the NBA, followed by the NFL,” said the study which was published Monday in the Journal of the American Acaedemy of Pediatrics.

Star athletes such as LeBron James, Peyton Manning, as well as Serena Williams endorse more food and beverages than any other athlete.

Anna Santilli-Finn, advertising and marketing communications program coordinator at Humber College, says athletes definitely play a massive role in persuading consumers to buy certain products and services.

“Whether it effects consumers in a negative way depends on the product. If it is real junk food it will affect the reputation of the celebrity that is endorsing it.”